How Long for Zion National Park?

Jan 3rd, 2012, 07:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 282
How Long for Zion National Park?

I'm in the early stages of planning a trip to the National Parks in Utah, probably for early June (but possibly early Sept). I've checked the in park lodging availability, and I can only get one night at Bryce. I can get up to 4 nights at Zion. I'm sure to really explore the park would take a lifetime, but I'm a casual day hiker at best. Is 4 nights too long at Zion for a week long trip?

After Bryce, I've only got up to 2 nights available before flying home. I don't want to spend the whole trip changing hotels, but I'm trying to figure out how to allocate my time. Thanks for any suggestions.
Travelkitty is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:15 AM
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The problem with inpark lodging is that tours book a year in advance and then start to cancel in the last month.

Also, many people book the same way without plans and then cancel as well.

Take what you can get and then start to call. Once a week at first and then in the last 6 weeks everyday and twice a day.

I've always ended up getting what I want.

I'm not quite sure how many days you have but you can easily spend a day in Bryce and 2-3 in Zion.

Personally, I don't do anything difficult. However, I can go non-stop.

In Zion I would recommend Riverside Walk, The Narrows only if you want to rent equipment and walk in waist high water, Emerald Pools, Angel's Landing up to Scouts Lookout and Canyon Overlook (at the east entrance on the way to Bryce).

In Bryce I would recomend getting up very early and go to Bryce Point for a spectacular suntise and then after some breakfast hike down Navajo Loop, back up Queens garden and then along the rim back to your car at Sunset Point.

Then you can drive to a few of the viewpoints but once you've seen Bryce Point, Sunset Point (start of Navajo Loop) and Sunrise Point (top of Queens Garden) the only one different is Natural Bridge.

If you have a week you may want to take a few days and expand your range.

a) You can add Grand Canyon South Rim (not one of my favorite places but still should be seen if you haven't). However, I would recommend stopping in Page.AZ if you do this to go to Antelope canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Two favorites.

b) Willis Creek slot canyon and Grosvenor Arch (do bother with the Arch if you've been to Arches NP). Both are located about 10 miles south of Cannonville about 15 miles from Bryce.

c) You can expand even further to Devil's Garden Escalante with it's very interesting rock formations. Easy drive and esy walk around and never crowded.

d) Or even further to Lower Calf Creek Falls but this is starting to get a bit far.

Back to the lodging. Don't give up. Call, call, call.
Myer is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:48 AM
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I think two full days at Zion is more than enough for a casual hiker. The park is not really that big.

If you can't get in the park at Bryce, then consider staying in nearby Tropic. We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Inn (they have cabins). It's not far away and we really liked the Mossy Cave trail which has its trailhead halfway between Tropic and the park entrance.
bigtyke is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:52 AM
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Myer gives excellent advice! Zion is amazing! I only add this b/c I would like to have known before we went the first time, food is very expensive. For our first visit, we ended up driving 30ish minutes west to the nearest town for groceries, and for the 2nd trip we just buddgeted high - and waited long.
Booklover44 is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:00 AM
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oh, and to actually chime in on your question, 4 nights/days is a long time for Zion unless you just like to enjoy the view from different places in the park or from poolside, most of the hikes are up and require many stops to complete for 'casual walkers' - like me! 2 days/3 nights is ideal to not overdo.
Booklover44 is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:22 AM
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I can only get one night at Bryce.

Ruby's Inn is a short distance from the entrance and very convenient for Bryce access. It's a large resort with restaurant, big gift shop, rodeo, etc etc so a bit busy, but very easy access to the park.

Here are some other nearby options with TripAdvisor rankings:

Four days is too long for most of us at Zion.
Bill_H is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 10:13 AM
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Let me repeat.

If you call and call eventually you'll get cancellations.

I meant to also write that these parks are in elevation. Zion about 4,000 ft and Bryce over 8,000 ft.

Don't be afraid to do things but when you feel tired in Zion for no good reason, there is a good reason. In Bryce you will notice it more as the elevation is greater.

Walk slowly, rest often, drink lots of water, wear sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
Myer is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 10:22 AM
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I did both those parks last summer and did not stay IN the parks in either case and was glad that I didn't. The in park lodges do not look all that great (I did stay at the ones in GC North Rim and in Mesa Verde, because there are not other reasonable options in those places, and they were not the best accommodations). At Bryce we stayed at Ruby's which is right at the entrance. It was fine. At Zion we stayed at Zion Park Motel, but there are many other options in town and all are on the free shuttle bus route into the park.

We did three nights Bryce (so we could do a day trip - did Lower Calf Creek falls - amazing) and two nights Zion. We also did two nights GC North Rim. It made for a nice circuit. Here is my trip report:
isabel is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:26 PM
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I agree with isabel...especially in Zion. Springdale is a short drive and a nice small town -- you can walk to a variety of restaurants which is always a plus..and the shuttle bus is great!
ladystack is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 12:59 PM
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I also stayed in Springdale and really enjoyed it. We stayed at a little "cabin" motel unit, which surrounded a grassy courtyard and was very clean. They also had a small swimming pool with astounding views of the surrounding red rocks. Very relaxing after a day in the park. Not even sure if the resort is still there, as we were in Utah years ago.

Springdale also gave convenient access to both "sides" of Zion. One part of the park is radically different from the other side....consists of mesa-like geologic features...very unique.

From Springdale, we drove into the "backcountry" a bit to an old ghost town where part of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed. Was about a 30 minute drive and one of the most unexpected and enjoyable bonuses of our trip. Ask at any of the hotels or restaurants in Springdale, and I'm sure someone can give you directions.

You will love both Zion and Bryce and won't go wrong whatever you do.
As one other person noted, there is a small Rodeo at the Ruby in Bryce, which was a lot of fun for some after dinner entertainment
ljv is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 01:14 PM
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Stay "in park" if at all possible. Rustic or not-I love the Historic Park Lodges.

As far as how long. It just depends on how many activities you want to do-hiking, tubing,horseback riding, canyoneering, etc. Do you know which hikes you want to do? Angels Landing and The Narrows require each require a large part of the day(5-6 hours each or so) to do and you probably won't do a lot of other hikes after doing them that day. These are somewhat adventurous but really awesome hikes.
You could also go canyoneering with Zion Adventure Co. in Springdale.

Go ahead and get your 4 nights at Zion and 1 at Bryce. As Myer indicates there is a very good chance that you will end up with an extra day at Bryce, then just cancel your zion day and make it 3 days Zion and 2 Bryce. Plenty to do at both of them.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 01:57 PM
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We love Springdale at the park entrance and we stay at the Desert Pearl Inn. Great place! Lots of fun places to eat at too.

To us Zion has a lot more to do tham Bryce but both are neat. Bryce is like a mini hikable Grand Canyon. Love walking down to the bottom surrounded by the hoodoos!

We loved hiking The Narrows. Amazing slot canyons and views. Not difficult but it is wet and sometimes slippery. Rent the water hikers and a walking stick. Well worth the money! Angels Landing is steep and difficult. It is not for little kids and for people with even a small fear of heights. But if you do it you will be rewardeed with a bucket list view for sure. Lots of beautiful lower valley hikes too. Also drive up to the upper Zion hikes like the canyon overlook, its a photographers dream.

I agree, go over to the Ghost town. it is called Grafton, just outside of Springdale. You can walk around and get a feel for it.
OCdogsmom is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 07:41 PM
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So many good suggestions already it is hard to know what to add.

I personally don't think 4 days in Zion is too long, but that is a highly individual and subjective decision. I have spent many years visiting Zion and it never gets old to me. I just discovered today another section of the park that I had never heard of before. I was curious about something I saw last time I was there and researched it today. It is amazing the backcountry that is there that probably 90% of the people never even know about let alone see.

You could spend one day at Zion just exploring the main canyon and the shorter trails there...Emerald Pools, Kayenta, Weeping Rock, Riverside. Another day for the Narrows (a good possibility in Sept but more chancey in June due to run off). Another day for Scout's Lookout and possibly Angel's Landing. Another for Hidden Canyon, riding a bike up the canyon to see all the things you can't from the shuttle, Pa'rus trail. THen there is the Kolob Terrace part of the park where you can take the northgate peaks trail for some incredible views of the Zion mesa tops. Or take a jeep tour there for sunset. Then there is tubing in the river, and the whole east side of the park with the Canyon Overlook trail there being a must do. I think I've gone over 4 days.

While Bryce is incredible the trails there are much fewer, really only three or four that are worth doing. You can see it in a day, but be sure to spend the night and watch the sunset or sunrise. The thing about Bryce is you can use it as a jump off point for Hwy 12 through the Grand Staircase. Willis Creek, Grosvenor Arch, Calf Creek, Hole in the rock have all been mentioned and could take another 3-4 days.

One thing you could do though if you can only get one day at Bryce is to spend the night before in Zion/Springdale, leave very early and drive straight to bryce. Then you'd have most of that day and most of the next day, which in most cases will be plenty of time there.
InSandy is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 10:48 PM
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We always spend 5 nights in Zion, so I think your 4 night plan is a good idea. There is a lot to do. Try calling Bryce again a month or 2 before your trip. There often are cancellations.
elnap29 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 04:10 AM
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Let me explain the difference in the layout between the two parks.

In Zion you are at the bottom and often hike up. In Bryce you are at the top and hike down (then back up of course).

While it's nice to look up and see the sun shining off the top of a mountain (Zion), it does not compare to watching the sun come up at Bryce Point.

For that reason, and the fact that Springdale is so close to Zion, inpark lodging may be less important in Zion.

When you're gettimng up and driving to Bryce Point in the dark, I would try for inpark lodging in Bryce.

We all have different opinions. For me, a luxury room is not an issue. I would always try for inpark.

I went to Bryce with my daughter last year. We got up early and went to Bryce Point for a spectacular sunrise. An hour later, on our way back to the room to grab an hour of sleep, we saw a tour bus stop and unload.

Yes, it's nice to see Bryce Point at that time. But an hour earlier would have been a memory.
Myer is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 07:24 AM
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Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. This trip is still in the initial planning stages, and the input is very helpful. Once I have a general overview, I'll do more detailed planning and come back with a specific proposed itinerary. And I love the different view points! It's nice to hear what people liked and why and really understand all the options - although I fear the Narrows hike is probably above my level!

This Forum is always a great place to get info and a lot of help!
Travelkitty is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 08:14 AM
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The Narrows is far less taxing on your body than Angels Landing. it's just in water. If you want to do it rent the proper shoes, socks and pants from Zion Adv. Co in Springdale.
spirobulldog is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 09:00 AM
Join Date: Oct 2011
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Agree with Myer and others about in park lodging. Cancellations are common. We've picked up several over the years at the various parks DH and I have visited.

That first cup of coffee taken while sitting on a rock near the rim as the sun came up at Bryce a mere 50 to 100 yards from our cabin was priceless. It is all about the location for us when we go to National Parks. Location trumps all other concerns.
succulent is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Casual day hikers take the Narrows hike all the time. It is a classic and one you really ought to consider. It can be an all day hike if you go as far as you can, but you don't need to go that far in order to really enjoy it.

The hike up to Angel's Landing on the other hand is more strenuous.
InSandy is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:10 AM
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Interesting debate about Zion and the Narrows vs Angel's Landing.

I would never hike the Narrows as I'm sure my camera would end up in the water. My priorities.

My first time in Zion I never considered Angel's Landing. I saw some people way up there.

I was in Zion a year ago September with my daughter. We started about 8AM and hiked up to Scouts Lookout. On our way down some people were just starting in the heat of the day.

Yes, it is uphill going (and of course downhill back) but the trail is very smooth. Mostly paved with a dusting of sand. That makes it easy on the body. Since the trail is wide there's no problem stopping to rest and drink water.

The debate started when my daughter wanted to continue past Scouts Lookout.
Myer is offline  

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